AirAsia searchers find large objects in sea

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SHAFAQNA – Recovery teams looking for the lost AirAsia flight have discovered two “big objects” on the sea floor believed to be large pieces of the jet’s wreckage, the head of the Indonesian search agency said today.“I’m confident this is part of the AirAsia plane,” said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesian search and rescue, as he announced the find in a hunt marked by several false leads.

The potential breakthrough came as Indonesian authorities said the downed airbus was taking an unauthorised route at the time it disappeared with 162 people on board, raising new questions over the disaster.

They have ordered AirAsia to stop using the Surabaya-Singapore route while it investigates the alleged breach, saying the carrier did not have permission to fly the route on a Sunday, when the crash took place.

“We are going to investigate all AirAsia flight schedules,” said Djoko Muratmodjo, acting general director for air navigation in the transport ministry, as he announced a widening of the investigation hours later.

He raised the possibility of revoking the AirAsia’s licence to operate in Indonesia in what would be a body blow for the carrier.

An Indonesian ship detected the two large seabed objects at around 30 metres depth on Friday night which has raised new hopes of search and recovery teams.

One of the pieces measured some nine by five metres, while another item found nearby was 7 metres by half a metre.

A geological survey ship was sent down to try to capture closer images of the objects, but was being hampered by rough waves which have largely stalled the rescue operation.

“It seems that they have found the major (plane) parts,” said Toos Sanitioso, an investigator from the country’s national transportation safety committee.

Searchers hope that many bodies are still inside the plane. Only 30 people’s remains recovered so far for grieving relatives, leading to speculation that many bodies may still be trapped inside a relatively intact fuselage.

Mr Sanitioso added that he was hopeful that search teams were narrowing down on the main wreck site and would find the black boxes within a few days, which now offer the best hope of finding out exactly what happened on the plane.

Speculative theories about the causes of the crash include instrument failure caused by bad weather, pilot disorientation, and a mid-air stall caused by the plane flying too slowly or at too steep an angle. There have been no hints so far of an act of terrorism.

Claims that the plane was flying without permission have raised new questions, not least over how the airbus was allowed to take off and to use Indonesian air control if it was not cleared to use the route.

Hadi Mustofa Djuraid, a transport ministry official, told reporters on Friday that authorities were also investigating the possibility that the pilot did not ask for a weather report from the meteorological agency at the time of take-off.

An AirAsia spokeswoman declined to comment on Indonesian claims, but said the airline was cooperating fully with the authorities.

Meanwhile, teams searching the Java Sea are struggling to recover bodies amid rough weather and high waves.

Since the first bodies and wreckage were found on Tuesday, the search zone has been reduced to 1,575 square nautical miles, a tenth of the original area.

Six days after the crash, however, an international team of ships, planes and helicopters has recovered only a fraction of those lost on board, amid fears that strong current could wash away bodies forever.

Four crash victims have so far been identified and returned to their families in Surabaya, including a female flight attendant.

The search team has also been frustrated by the crowded seabed, which contains numerous shipwrecks including World War Two remains.

As the hunt moves largely underwater, the French accident investigation agency, BEA, has sent two hydrophones, which are capable of detecting the underwater “pings” emitted by black box flight data recorders. They have a range of up to 3,000 metres, and the batteries in the recorders are designed to last for at least 30 days.

Speculative theories about the causes of the crash include instrument failure caused by bad weather, pilot disorientation, and a mid-air stall caused by the plane flying too slowly or at too steep an angle. There have been no hints so far of an act of terrorism.

Source : thetimes.co.uk

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